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J Bacteriol. 2005 Nov;187(21):7309-16.

A mycothiol synthase mutant of Mycobacterium smegmatis produces novel thiols and has an altered thiol redox status.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0314, USA.


Mycobacteria and other actinomycetes do not produce glutathione but make mycothiol (MSH; AcCys-GlcN-Ins) that has functions similar to those of glutathione and is essential for growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Mycothiol synthase (MshD) catalyzes N acetylation of Cys-GlcN-Ins to produce MSH in Mycobacterium smegmatis mc2155, and Cys-GlcN-Ins is maintained at a low level. The mycothiol synthase mutant, the mshD::Tn5 mutant, produces high levels of Cys-GlcN-Ins along with two novel thiols, N-formyl-Cys-GlcN-Ins and N-succinyl-Cys-GlcN-Ins, and a small amount of MSH. The nonenzymatic reaction of acyl-coenzyme A (CoA) with Cys-GlcN-Ins to produce acyl-Cys-GlcN-Ins is a facile reaction under physiologic conditions, with succinyl-CoA being an order of magnitude more reactive than acetyl-CoA. The uncatalyzed reaction rates are adequate to account for the observed production of N-succinyl-Cys-GlcN-Ins and MSH under physiologic conditions. It was shown that the N-acyl-Cys-GlcN-Ins compounds are maintained in a substantially reduced state in the mutant but that Cys-GlcN-Ins exists in disulfide forms at 5 to 40% at different stages of growth. MSH was able to facilitate reduction of N-succinyl-Cys-GlcN-Ins disulfide through thiol-disulfide exchange, but N-formyl-Cys-GlcN-Ins was ineffective. The oxidized state of Cys-GlcN-Ins in cells appears to result from a high susceptibility to autoxidation and a low capacity of the cell to reduce its disulfide forms. The mutant exhibited no enhanced sensitivity to hydrogen peroxide, tert-butyl hydroperoxide, or cumene hydroperoxide relative to the parent strain, suggesting that the most abundant thiol, N-formyl-Cys-GlcN-Ins, functions as a substitute for MSH.

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